We knew it would finally happen—encountering travel difficulties in getting to a ballpark on time. The real surprise was that we hadn’t figured it would happen in quite this way.
We had left the Austin area in Toad (the nickname for our towed car) in plenty of time to get to San Antonio for the late morning game. As we approached the Alamo city, however, we were warned of significant traffic delays on Interstate 35 South in the middle of the city. Since the route that we had mapped out would take us down I-35 to 90 West, we thought it best to find an alternate route. At that point, Bonnie pulled out her iPad and typed in San Antonio Missions. “Relief,” we thought when the suggested route directed us to take the 410 toward I-37. The only sticking point in my mind was that the directions said to follow the 410 East. While I knew that the ballpark lies at the western edge of the city, I figured that the 410 must be circumferential highway that would deposit us near the ballpark.
When the green GPS locator of our position began to approach the red destination spot on Bonnie’s iPad, I noticed a historic marker for San Antonio Missions at the upcoming exit. Yet when we got to the site, we found that it was indeed one of the historic San Antonio missions, a relic of the religious life of old San Antonio, not the ballpark for the team by that name.
The time: 10:08. I was due to meet with the Missions staff for pre-game instructions at 10:30, just a half hour before their late-morning start. Bonnie quickly came to the rescue, adding “baseball” to the map search with San Antonio Missions, she quickly relayed that the new routing from I-410 to I-37 to 90W was estimated to take 19 minutes. Thankfully, we were not slowed by Arby’s normal pace but instead enjoyed the freedom of freeway speeds. And we made it to the front gate to greet Bill Gerlt, the Assistant General Manager, at 10:29. Whew!
The close call in timing meant that I was not able to warm up as usual; and because of the pre-noon start, I had wanted to warm up a bit longer in order to get all of the overnight cobwebs out of my throat. Instead, I breathed deeply while Bill and I talked about the wonders of minor league baseball and tried to avoid too much pre-game sun. Already, the temperature even at that early hour had reached the upper 90s.
Noticing a “Storm” baseball shirt on a fan in the front row, I asked if he had been to Lake Elsinore. Yes, but…. The father of Missions’ slugger Jaff Decker had seen the Padres’ California League team in Lake Elsinore, but his shirt referred to his own enterprise, a baseball academy named the Storm in the Phoenix area. Jaff’s dad had flown into San Antonio for a home-stand to see his son play. The previous night Jeff had poled his 10th homer, a tape-measure shot over the top of the tree well behind the right field fence.
Although there was no first pitch or other typical ceremony to precede the anthem, the P.A. announcer addressed the grade-school classes that filled the majority of the seats. He posed a math question to the upper-grade students: “In an average game, the Missions use 18 dozen baseballs. Since there are 12 baseballs in case, how many cases of baseballs do the Missions use in their 70 game season?” The spokesperson child answered 48! When the announcer relayed the answer to the crowd of fifth-graders, he asked, “Is he right?” They resounded loudly, “YES!”
I cringed, knowing that Bonnie, who had recently retired as a fifth grade teacher, was standing behind them, wanting to take them through a series of considerations that would help them compute the correct answer.
Although Jaff didn’t homer that mid-day, he did collect two singles, raising his average to the .300 range while San Antonio beat Corpus Christi 5-2 with the benefit of only one homerun. The little-ball approach to winning baseball was new to the Missions. During the first month of the season they had slugged more homeruns than any other Texas League team and had led all of the minor leagues in runs scored, topping twenty runs in three of those games.